Tuesday, November 9, 2010

But this time I hit Stop

**Submitted by Georgia

I've been wanting to write my story, but haven't known where to start.  Here is good, though--there's a little success (30 days!), I'm out of the gutter enough to have a positive attitude, but still close enough to the end to remember how bad it was.  The disease wants me to forget--because then it can get its thing going again, it can suck me back in--but if I paint this picture of my drinking, I can look back and remember what to say when the drink is knocking at my door.  

I know now that I am a garden-variety drunk.  High achiever, perfectionist, had to do everything, and do it well.  A good girl--no room for mistakes.  My extended family was full of alcoholics, but my parents didn't drink.  Drinking was wrong, immoral; it could be blamed for most problems "those people" had.  I was, of course, intrigued.  What was with this magical, forbidden stuff?  Why did people do it if it was so awful?  At 16, I stole a bottle of leftover Gallo from an adult party and drank the whole thing in one night, puking my guts up when I woke from my stupor.  From the get-go, I was an over-achieving drinker, too.  
I didn't drink again until college.  There was nowhere for me to get the stuff, and I wouldn't be caught dead at one of "those parties" in high school.  I went to a good college, almost immediately got involved with the wrong people, and crashed and burned my sophomore year.  There was an unwelcome pregnancy and a raging ex in the mix, too.  I couldn't recover from all the shame I had brought upon myself -- I thought my life was over.  I bought bottle after bottle of gin, and drank while listening to music on the broken-down fire escape outside my dank apartment.  I always drank it straight, always drank alone.  There was never any pretense of "enjoyment" or "appreciation" for the booze.  Why would anyone drink for any other reason than getting drunk?

Much to my surprise, life did move on.  I graduated by the skin of my teeth, moved to the big city, and started a new life.  I drank almost every night.  I moved on from gin to beer to red wine and would drink a bottle nearly every night I was alone.  I drank because everyone else was drinking, drank to remove the now-constant leftover shame from "ruining my life," drank to avoid growing up.  

But grow up I did, despite my best efforts.  I got married, had a couple of kids (managed to stay sober during the pregnancies, thankyouverymuch), but my drinking was getting darker, deeper.  Once I stopped working to stay home with the kids I drank during the day, walking to the grocery store to stock up and hide from my very sweet and enabling husband how much was disappearing.  I loved my kids fiercely but was deeply bored by mothering, filled with never-ending anxiety from all the things I should be doing to make their lives perfect, depressed by my lack of career--and the perfect trifecta of boredom-anxiety-depression was relieved only by alcohol.

I knew I had a problem -- had recognized it the first time I sucked down that forbidden bottle of Gallo -- but I had no idea how to stop.  For years, I read books, took quizzes, made resolutions, and broke them over and over again, feeling worse each time.  Through it all, I maintained a sunny, dizzy exterior, volunteering for church and school and community activities, always searching for something that would lift me out of that cycle of boredom, anxiety and depression.  I knew what I needed to do--I needed to stop--but was petrified of admitting I was one of "those people," an Alcoholic.  And the shame associated with that label only made me drink more.  I did dangerous, stupid things.  I did things I would have ended friendships over, if somebody else I knew did them.  (Isn't that fantastically schizophrenic behavior?)  All the while, no one said a thing.

So if you're like me 2 months ago, trolling the internet for recovery stories, looking for inspiration to halt your own booze cruise, you are impatient for me to get to the punchline.  Why did she stop?  Was it a drunk driving arrest?  Did they take away her kids?  Is her sordid, shameful story complete?

I'm sorry to say that it was nothing so dramatic as that.  I am lucky as hell that nothing bad happened--well, nothing worse than wasting more than 10 years of my life on booze, putting myself and others in danger, and building up a motherlode of horrific shame that I'm knocking down one brick at a time, that is.  I woke up one morning with a raging hangover yet again, searched the house frantically for the last two beers I had squirreled away the night before, and sucked them down once the kids had left for school.  I took a bath, and while I was sitting there, sweating away my shame, I said quietly to myself, No.  No more.  I can't do this anymore.  I've been rewinding the same ridiculous, destructive tape, hitting play without even watching the shitty movie, over and over.  But this time I hit Stop.  And I'll be damned if I rewind that thing again.

What's different this time?  I started praying.  Yeah I know, it's cheesy.  But here's my idea of God: it's that place of light, peace and deep breathing within myself.  The place of no obligation.  The place of no guilt.  The place of loose shoulders and smooth striding.  The place of satisfaction.  God is that pinhole of truth, opening wider through meditation and prayer.  I never thought it existed before, thought I was too beaten down and ashamed and broken, but it's there.  And the more I nurture it, the more I give up my ugly feelings of inadequacy and anxiety and shame to it, the bigger it grows. 

The other thing that's different is I reached out.  I read this recovery blog and others every day, and joined the ladies over at Booze Free Brigade.  Through those two channels, I came to see that though I am an alcoholic (scary word!) and need to stay sober (other scary word!), there is no shame in that--in fact, I am in damn fine company.  It's just the way I was born, and I didn't choose it--but I choose what I do with that inborn thing, and I finally want to wrangle it into submission instead of feeding it my liver.  And I am proud of that.  The way I do it is by banishing perfection, by checking in with the other recovering alkies, by blocking out that lying voice that says, "I am the answer," every single time I hear it--which is often, but less and less each day.

Thanks for reading.  I wrote this story for me, so I would look back and remember this time clearly, but I also wrote it for you.  You are worth stopping.  You deserve it.


  1. Well, that is just spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I definitely relate to having "nothing bad" happen, to having no one say anything to me, but I know how bad it was, just like you. The years of endless nothingness and shame and guilt and anger.

    I'm thrilled for you to be ridding yourself of it. Thanks again for writing.

  2. I love your idea of God, especially the loose shoulders and smooth striding.

  3. What a beautifully written, honest, and funny(!) post. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to just about every single thing you talk about here. I love your description of God.

    And I realllly love this:

    "The way I do it is by banishing perfection, by checking in with the other recovering alkies, by blocking out that lying voice that says, "I am the answer," every single time I hear it--which is often, but less and less each day."

    You are so brave, honest and true. And you are so very strong.

    Thank you,


  5. This is a voice full of courage. Thank you. And I will remember that "place of light, peace and deep breathing within myself" as I meditate for the next few days. Lovely <3

  6. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your story. So glad you're in a better place. :)

  7. Thank you for your post. Today is the day that I hit the "Stop" button!

  8. Welcome! And congratulations! I can empathize with much of your journey. Mine was very much like yours. Keep coming back and take it one day at a time. :)

  9. Beautiful. I want to be here someday.

  10. Thank you for your wonderful comments, ladies--I am feelin' the love! And I'm feeling accountable--I've already come back to look at this a couple of times when I've felt the "just one drink" monster tugging at my heels. I am so grateful for your support!

  11. Good job. I'm glad you hit stop.